Coming back from active service or combat zones, it can be tough for veterans to heal.
But at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center, many veterans are finding therapy through their artwork.
“I’ve been here for 15 years, and I’ve been entering this thing for 15 years!” said U.S. Army veteran Preston Brown.
Every year, vets get to show off their creative side at the Veterans Creative Arts Show, where they can compete in 50 different categories of artwork. They include anything from painting to music, or woodwork to ceramics.
Even while many struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, permanent injuries and other issues, they don’t let barriers get in the way of their passions.
“It’s kind of hard for them to do that – to share and express themselves,” said Dawn Johns, recreation therapy specialist and event coordinator at the Martinsburg VA Medical Center.
A great example is James Jackson, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who came to the VA Center about 13 years ago, when he was homeless. But little did he know that he would find an award-winning love for ceramics.
“I found out that I had a talent that I never knew that God had given me,” Jackson said.
Now, he hangs out with his fellow vets at the center’s hobby shop, using art to paint a new picture of their future.
“We are like a bunch of kids in a candy store when we’re down there,” Jackson added. “We laugh. We joke. We have fun, and we help each other. We let our art do the talking for us – for who we are and what we are.”
The first-place winners will now go onto national judging, where they’ll face off against veterans from other medical centers. The ones lucky enough to advance beyond the national judging will be invited to a week-long National Veterans Creative Arts Festival in Buffalo later this year.